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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trump’s Jerusalem Gambit: Why Now?

One would think President Donald J. Trump would have other things on his mind. From Alabama to North Korea, the president has been immersed with these developments. But he also has been preoccupied by the Mueller investigation on possible collusion with Russia to meddle and manipulate the 2016 presidential election.

If his staff had the gall to show him the data, Trump could see now that he has the lowest approval ratings than any other in modern history at this point in his term.  In addition, the sexual misconduct accusations on men across the private and public sector raises once again questions about the president’s own accusers of sexual assault and impropriety, which number at about 15 to date.

This would normally keep a president pretty much tethered to these matters when he is not playing golf or watching cable news.  However, out of left field, it seems, President Trump found still another way to spark controversy, and as has become the norm lately, anger our allies when on December 6, he formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. 

The move reversed nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and put in place a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the ferociously contested Holy City.  Rather than being the bargaining chip it once was as a key component of peace talks (now stalled), recognition of Jerusalem is now off the table, and this order brought no concessions from Israel in return.  The U.S. is no longer seen (if it ever were) as an impartial broker of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.  Trump’s action confirms it.

While the Embassy is not actually moving to Jerusalem in the next few years, the decision was condemned both at home and abroad with violent flare-ups taking place in the Palestinian territories that threaten to spread elsewhere in the Middle East.  Why would Trump do this at this time?  I have a few theories—cynical as they may be.  #hocopolitics

►To Distract.  As the Mueller probe moves closer and closer inside the White House and with former U.S. National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn probably already having turned state’s evidence against the president and/or his family as part of a plea deal, things are getting pretty dicey for Mr. Trump.  When the news is not favorable, he finds things to dominate the next news cycle and Jerusalem seemed to have been pulled out of his bag of distracting tricks.

►To reinforce his call for a Muslim ban. As a candidate, Trump infamously announced a “total and complete shutdown” of the entry of Muslims to the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”  He has found a way to impugn the reputation of entire religion based on the actions of a radical fringe.  Trump was fully aware that the controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would fuel unrest in the Palestinian territories, and the footage of burning U.S. and Israeli flags promulgated by the not-so-fake news would lather up his anti-Muslim base to provide additional adrenaline to his travel ban from select predominant Muslim countries, which is still being legally challenged.

►Religious fulfillment. The recognition of Jerusalem was a campaign promise from Trump and a pledge to evangelical Christians. As a matter of fact, the White House explained that this was the motive for the announcement.  With the devout Vice President Mike Pence heading over there, there is some credence to that motive.

►Drill baby drill! This may be somewhat far-fetched but not entirely out of the question. The recognition of Jerusalem could lead to a Mideast oil embargo against the U.S. Already there is some chatter that economic sanctions be put in place against us so this is a possibility.  Should such an action occur, unlikely as it may be,, Trump could use that as an excuse to destroy even more public lands for the purpose of oil drilling.

All, any or none of these reasons may explain why this action took place at this time. But if you have other possibilities, please share them as comments on this post.

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